This Sunday will begin the final week in the season known as Eastertide—called Heenoonk in Armenian to designate the period of 50 days between Easter and Pentecost.
With its passage, we are ending our Easter journey for this year. But only “sort of”: it’s an ending written in the calendar, but not in our hearts.
As Christians, every day should be a reminder to us of the Easter message that “Christ is Risen!” Certainly under our present circumstances, every day gives us cause to reflect deeply on the meaning of that message—and as Armenians to erupt every now and then with a spontaneous declaration of “Krisdos haryav ee merelots!”
But the 10-day period leading to Pentecost accentuates this reality.
That period began last Thursday with the Feast of Christ’s Holy Ascension—when the Only Begotten Son departed from his earthly followers to sit at the right hand of his Father. The period ends on Pentecost Sunday—when the “comforter” Christ had promised, the Holy Spirit, descended on those followers, and thus gave birth to the Church.
It’s a time when all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are palpably at work: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And for the disciples (maybe for us, too), it’s a time of transition: a change from living in the physical presence of the Lord Jesus, God the Son, to living with the spiritual presence of God the Holy Spirit.
Between Cross and Tomb
As with all transitions, this period between Ascension and Pentecost is an opportune moment to remember where we’ve been: to reflect one more time on the Resurrection, and visualize its two boundless symbols: the Cross and the Tomb.
Envision the Cross of Christ, and you become aware as a Christian that no life is without tribulation. It comes with the territory. An “optimistic” philosophy that imagines perfection achieved without pain is ignoring the lesson God taught at Golgotha. As receivers of that lesson, we are called not to escape tribulation, but to be transformed by the divine grace that is made available to us through it.
Envision the Empty Tomb, and you see clearly that tribulation need not lack meaning. A “pessimistic” philosophy that foresees only inevitable destruction has missed the point of the Resurrection. Resurrection is renewal and transformation: it is the negation of the ultimate inevitability, Death. Its lesson is that God’s greatest meaning for us is found in life, and in serving Him. It assures us that we stand worthy in His eyes, not because of anything we did, but because Christ proved worthy, and shares that distinction with us, out of love.
The Good Shepherd laid down his life that we might find a new and risen life through his sacrifice. We are told to seek it always.
The lessons of Cross and Tomb resonate powerfully for us this year. As we complete the season of Easter, while still dealing with the effects of the world pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep those two symbols in focus. They should always stand before us—even when our present troubles are behind us.
And with these symbols written in our hearts, we will be ready—as Christ’s disciples were on that first Pentecost, 50 days after Easter—to welcome God the Holy Spirit into our lives.
By Fr. Tateos R. Abdalian